September 3, 2014
WHY SHOULD PORT CHARLOTTE BECOME A CITY?
Where We Are Now
Recent discussions about incorporating Port Charlotte really aren't about forming a municipality at all; they are about reversing the current downward trend in economic activity and appearance the area we call home. The creation of a city in the unincorporated Port Charlotte area seems to be the best way to change our geographic area. Obviously there is a lot of research and analysis to be done before we know if becoming a city is the best option for us but it seems worth the effort involved. This has to be a grassroots effort with broad input from current residents for it to work.
We have only to look at North Port and Punta Gorda to see the possibilities that exist when local residents take control of their own growth and development. What are these differences?
Rising property valuations in Port Charlotte are largely stagnant.
Business growth and new business activity are obvious, where a drive through Port Charlotte on Highway 41 is depressing in the number of empty storefronts. Municipalities can offer their own incentives to encourage business and resident relocation.
Both cities have control of spending and benefit from State and County revenue sharing. Additionally, the county cannot add MSBU's or other special assessments within city limits, potentially reducing taxation.
North Port and Punta Gorda have a vision of for what they want to look like and where their economic growth can come from. Port Charlotte is at the mercy of county programs which always seem to most benefit Punta Gorda.
County governments were never meant to provide municipal services to such a large area as Charlotte County and attempts to do so by county administration and our elected Board of County Commissioners have resulted in a large pool of very unhappy residents. From their perspective they have a limited resource (money) that needs to be spread over a large geographic area. It is impossible for them to concentrate that money in an area, such as Port Charlotte, that desperately needs an infusion of money to develop the infrastructure, services, and economic growth necessary to insure the safety and well-being of area residents. To do so would raise the hackles of all other areas of the county that feel entitled to some benefit for the tax dollars they pay.
As a result, Port Charlotte, as well as surrounding communities, continues to muddle along without a vision of what we could become and the means to turn a vision into a reality.
Without an overall strategic vision and the means to implement it, area residents are also at the mercy of conflicting agendas and time constraints within current county departments. Proposing more HUD housing, Accessory Housing recommendations and increased population density into Parkside, an area the county has designated as blighted, may actually compound the existing problem on one hand, while spending millions to improve the community on the other.
We can continue to expect a different result from the same actions or we can organize to improve our situation.
How Does Incorporation Change Our Situation?
Incorporation provides the following:
Revenue sharing with both the State and County from taxes to be spent in Port Charlotte. These revenues currently go to the county and spending is countywide. As the largest concentration of population in the county, our share of this revenue would be significant.
Control over interpretation of State building codes to make our area more attractive to both residential and commercial development.
Development of our own Economic Growth Plan. Port Charlotteans can direct economic growth and the means to achieve it.
Get more "clout" with county government as an organized entity for spending and programs that our residents feel are important. Currently there are small groups fighting for single issues with the Commissioner and Administrative attention. Local control can provide a unified approach that will carry far more weight.
Eliminate county MSBUs and Special Assessments and develop our own plan for necessary local infrastructure needs.
Increase responsiveness of government. Municipal governments listen to citizen concerns because these concerns generally affect all residents and not just one area of a large county.
We have formed a group of grassroots advocates to explore whether or not incorporation is right for Port Charlotte. We will be looking at risks, city boundaries, tax base, etc. to support such an effort and, of course, to see if the citizens of Port Charlotte support the effort.